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Carol Stiffler

My children haven’t been inside a school since March 13. They left then for a three-week break at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan.

Three weeks turned into a month, and then face-to-face learning was called off for the year.

You know the story. It happened to your kids, too. It chopped off the end of the senior year for the Class of 2020 – no prom, no senior skip day, no final moments. The final moments of togetherness were the ones we spent in March, bewildered as our children stumbled out of school with their backpacks full of their belongings “just in case”.

How will they ever get back to in-school learning?

If the coronavirus is spread with a breath, no room will be safe as long as the virus exists. And with no vaccine and no promise of immunity, the virus will continue to exist.

We’ve been fortunate that it hasn’t delivered a bombshell here in the Upper Peninsula. Densely populated areas are hit harder, and we are much more spread out. That’s great in terms of social distancing, but it means long bus rides to school. That’s a long time to expect children to keep their face masks on. Busses are full as it is, so educators are tasked with figuring out how to get kids to school safely.

One of the considerations is to alternate which students are at school each week.

Requesting parents to drop off and pick up their students is another option to safe bussing.

But then there’s lunch time. Kids will have to remove their masks to eat lunch, and there’s no likelihood of them eating in silence. Will they eat in their classrooms, then? Is hot lunch over for now?

If school cannot safely resume, who can make sure students don’t fall even further behind? Parents cannot realistically be expected to make up the gap in education for the long term. If there ever was any doubt, a family’s appreciation for their students’ teachers has probably never been stronger.

These issues are no one’s fault, and the weight on school districts is heavy. They dearly want to continue educating our children. And they certainly want to keep them safe.

To help kids get back in the classroom, local school districts have been reaching out to ask the community for input. A survey for Tahquamenon Area Schools is available at bit.ly/TASReturn. Three Lakes Academy conducted a single-question survey last week, asking parents and guardians to simply state their concerns about sending kids back to school. If you haven’t already filled out one of the surveys, consider doing it. Even if you don’t have a connection to anyone currently attending school. We are all stakeholders, and these schools belong to our communities.

You can reach Carol at nbyeditor@jamadots.com.